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Why Smucker is discontinuing Jif Power Ups

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Dive Brief:

  • The J.M. Smucker Co. will discontinue its Jif Power Ups peanut butter-based snack line. CEO Mark Smucker said during a presentation at the annual Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Florida that it was a “difficult decision,” but the Ohio-based company needs to reallocate resources to portfolio areas more likely to generate greater financial returns.
  • Smucker debuted Power Ups in May 2018 in both crunchy granola bars and creamy granola clusters. The legacy CPG firm called them a wholesome snack choice with peanuts as the first ingredient, no high fructose corn syrup and 6 grams of protein per serving.
  • Mark Smucker also said at the CAGNY conference that two new Jif products, a creamy peanut butter spread with no added sugar and creamy peanut butter in a 13-ounce squeezable container, would be coming to market in the company’s next fiscal year, which begins in May. 

Dive Insight:

Even though Jif Power Ups apparently didn’t resonate enough with kids and parents to drive large revenues, CEO Mark Smucker said the platform was successful in attracting new consumers to the brand. Jif has a 40% market share in the peanut butter segment, according to the company’s CAGNY presentation, so the new products coming out later this year could help maintain that position, even without peanut butter-based snacks.

Still, it’s hard to understand why the lineup failed to gain enough traction with consumers for Smucker to keep it around. The company announced in October more than 2.5 million households had bought Jif Power Ups as of December 2018, and two versions of the bars were being launched in convenience stores.

The popularity of the snack segment continues to grow, so competition is fierce for shelf space and brand loyalty, especially in the bars category. Other food manufacturers such as Hershey, Kellogg and Mondelez have been buying up bar brands and emphasizing their better-for-you snacking portfolios as the category grows increasingly popular with consumers. But considering the competition flooding the space, now could be a good time for Smucker to bow out, instead focusing its efforts in categories that are not so hotly contested.

For legacy CPG companies such as Smucker, it often isn’t enough to rely on core brands to enhance sales, so it needs to constantly innovate and reposition products to keep up with the trends. As Smucker pulls back on its Jif Power Ups, the company will be investing in other innovations, including one that has been a resounding success: Smucker’s Uncrustables.

In its CAGNY presentation, the company said Uncrustables was “the fastest-growing brand in frozen snacking” with a 19% increase in annual net sales between fiscal year 2001 and 2019. Smucker’s new $340-million, 430,000-square-foot plant in Longmont, Colorado — which started up last summer — can turn out 2 million Uncrustables daily, the company said.

Moving forward, a focusing on more productive investments and enhanced marketing support could help revitalize Smucker’s flagging revenue picture, but it could take time. The company has relied mainly on pet foods to boost sales, followed by its coffee segment. While sales bumped up slightly in fiscal year 2019, its second quarter revenue dropped 3% to $1.96 billion compared to $2.02 billion for the year before. The company is projecting a 3% decrease in net sales for the full fiscal year.

If dropping Jif Power Ups can help improve the company’s bottom line and better streamline its portfolio, then it could prove to be a smart strategy. Since Smucker is expected to release third quarter earnings on February 26, it should soon become clear whether its strategies for achieving more sustainable top-line growth are beginning to have a positive effect.



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Bakers and Gardeners Seek Guidance and Community Online

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Somewhere amid the polarization that’s playing itself out on social media — a critical and impossible-to-ignore schism between those privileged to ride out the coronavirus pandemic with from-home work and enriching activities, and vulnerable communities struggling for even the most basic of resources — there is an optimistic narrative. Fractured and isolated as Americans may be as we shelter in place, some of us are seeking, and finding, solace in each other, virtually. 

This has been especially evident in the masses of first-time bakers and gardeners taking to Instagram and Twitter. Yes, there’s been a backlash against perceived flour, yeast, and seed hoarders as those commodities continue to be difficult to procure after spikes in sales. But there’s also been a concurrent surge of goodwill as novices attempting to forge deeper relationships with their co-shut-ins and whatever bits of nature they can access, reach out to each other online.

“We’re becoming more capable with technology, we are finding new ways to connect with our neighbors, and all of this can be a way in which we can make sense of this pandemic,” says Roxane Cohen Silver, a psychology professor at the University of California, Irvine. And it’s working to the benefit of those on both sides of the equation: the ones who need guidance, and the ones who have it to offer.

Help for New Bakers

Some Internet denizens have sought help from professional chefs. A recent tweet from Nigella Lawson, for example, suggested using leftover potato-boiling water to incorporate into bread dough for better texture and rise, and got over 6,000 retweets and more than 52,000 likes. Other would-be bakers have turned to less-vaunted sources, like Oklahoma City resident Matthew Broberg-Moffitt, a business writer and former counselor who once trained as a chef. 

Just as COVID-19 began driving Americans indoors, Broberg-Moffitt offered to answer “simple baking questions” for his 6,000-plus Twitter followers. He got dozens of requests: for gluten-free cookie recipes, suggestions for alternatives to scarce yeast, advice on what to do when the dough doesn’t rise, an explanation of the difference between whole wheat and white flours, and tips for making bread turn out less dense.

“I believe there’s some kind of collective consciousness that’s looking to fulfill an unmet need, and many people associate that with baking,” Broberg-Moffitt says. “I’m really amazed at how many people are trying it.”

Demystifying Bread Baking

One of those people is Shannon Hall, a stay-at-home mom of three in Cincinnati who says she’s always been fascinated but intimidated by the number of steps it takes to produce a loaf of bread. But when schools closed, she says she “longed for a bit of comfort for myself and my children,” and decided to take Broberg-Moffitt up on his offer. 

“He gave me a simple bread recipe to follow” from King Arthur Flour, Hall says, one that the company claims is the “easiest loaf of bread you’ll ever bake.” She read and re-read the directions, checked back in with Broberg-Moffitt several times for moral and practical support, then “followed the recipe diligently.” When it didn’t turn out the way she’d hoped, she vowed never to bake again. She’s since reconsidered, though. She’s waiting for a rolling pin she ordered to arrive in the mail and gearing up to try a simpler baking task: homemade biscuits, the thought of which, she says, “makes me smile.”

Broberg-Moffitt, too, derives happiness from his exchanges with Hall and other bakers he’s coached, many of whom follow up with him after their initial efforts to show him what they’ve accomplished on their own. “I know people enjoy getting a personal response rather than Googling a question,” he says, but “I also enjoy trying to be a positive, encouraging presence. I’m a caregiver, so my needs are being met when I can fulfill that role.”

Where does he turn when he’s the one needing inspiration? The King Arthur Flour website, Divas Can Cook, and Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Pizzas and Pitas

Ehab Bander, a tech designer in San Francisco, has taken baking classes a couple of times but put off testing his new-found knowledge, in part because baking still seemed like “a bit of a mystery: If you do one step wrong you’ll mess it up. I definitely had fear,” he says. When coronavirus led to the closing of local bakeries and forced him, his wife and their twin 8-year-old daughters to stay home, he found “the flour in the pantry was just staring at me.” 

Rather than simply staring back, Bander put the flour to use, making pizza dough. “It was a great way to share something with my kids, and we didn’t have to [go out] at a time when we need to be hunkering down for safety,” he says. His impulse has been to turn to YouTube for guidance, which he’s been scouring for a pita recipe to spark memories of his childhood in Lebanon. And gearing up to whip up a sourdough starter for the first time (thanks to the national dearth of yeast), he’s thinking of signing up for an Instagram class to “make sure I don’t mess it up.”





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Der Tod des Empedokles/The Death of Empedocles (1987) – Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub

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The tragedy of the death of Empedocles, legislator in Ancient Greece.

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Nonprofit Teaches Seed Saving To Restore Farmers’ Food Sovereignty – Food Tank

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Global Seed Savers is working with smallholder farmers in the Philippines to restore food sovereignty. The international nonprofit provides farmers with resources and education to preserve the indigenous practice of seed saving. “We focus on sovereignty, not simply food security,” Sherry Manning, Founder and Executive Director of Global Seed Savers tells Food Tank.

According to Manning, sovereignty addresses a farmer’s right to decide how they cultivate their crops and with whom they conduct their business. “If food security is about the consumer, food sovereignty puts the focus on the [needs] of the producers,” Manning tells Food Tank.

Since 2015, the organization has conducted over 5,000 hours of training programs for more than 3,000 farmers on how to propagate, store, and sell regionally adapted seeds. Global Seed Savers has also established four community owned and operated seed libraries in the Province of Benguet, a region in the Northern Philippines. These libraries offer smallholder farmers access to a wide variety of locally produced, regionally adapted seeds.

“Seeds are the foundation of our food system,” Manning tells Food Tank. By saving seeds from the best crops season after season, farmers can build a diverse supply that is adapted to the environmental conditions of their region. Especially in the Philippines, it is vital that farmers strengthen their resilience to the impacts of severe weather and other natural disasters. The archipelago ranked first among 172 countries for climate change-related risk in the 2019 Global Peace Index.

In 2018, Typhoon Mangkhut tested Global Seed Savers’ model for improving farmers’ resilience to climate catastrophe. The destructive storm swept through the region with Category 5-level winds, 40-foot waves, and torrential rain. Although farmland across the Province of Benguet was severely impacted, seed saving helped many farming families recover quickly. “Thanks to our founding seed library, just days after the storm…our farmers were all able to access seeds and begin replanting right away,” Manning tells Food Tank. 

Reducing farmers’ dependence on multinational corporations for seeds is also imperative to the survival of indigenous crop varieties, according to Manning.  “Across the world, industrialized agriculture…[is] monopolizing the industry,” says Manning. With nearly one third of the Philippines’ total land area dedicated to cash crops, production of local staples falls short, according to a 2018 report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. 

For Manning, seed saving is as much about preserving farmers’ heritage as it is about their livelihoods. “We cannot separate culture and identity from the art, act, and love of growing food,” says Manning. “Seed Saving is an essential piece of this knowledge and in order to build a resilient food system in these ever-changing times we have to return to this indigenous wisdom.”

Manning says there is still much work ahead for the grassroots movement of seed saving. The nonprofit is now focusing on expanding seed saving education programs to the Province of Cebu in the Southern Philippines. “We are slowly, one farmer, and one community at a time, building our own collective future that is rooted in the land, in the soil, and in the seed.”

Photo courtesy of Sherry Manning, Founder and Executive Director of Global Seed Savers

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